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Feminist Pinups: Can You Be A Sexy Role Model?

February 16th, 2011     by Desirée O     Comments

Heidi Van Horne as ?Rosie the Riveter? by Mehosh Dzadzio

There are endless contradictions for women and girls to face when trying to understand and explore their identities, and a contradiction that has always fascinated/frustrated me is the one that exists between feminism and sexiness.

We’re seemingly free as feminists to embrace our sexuality, but when it comes to being “sexy” there’s a very blurry line that is impossible to define.

The concept of “sexy” itself is full of personal opinion, cultural influence, and a million debatable factors. One person’s idea of sexy could be another person’s idea of tame sensuality and yet another person’s idea of pornographic smut.

Go beyond this to try to pin down what is “acceptable” sexiness (how it is portrayed and/or used), and the debate is never ending.

This is what leads me to pinups. As an example of this acceptable sexiness debate, it exemplifies the differing opinions. Some feel that pinups are women who are empowered and owning their beauty and sexuality. While others believe that pinups are stereotypical representations playing into harmful beauty standards.

I recently stumbled across an article where Heidi Van Horne identifies as a feminist pinup. “It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but I’m a pin-up and a feminist. I’m very specific about the way I portray women. I’ve turned down major projects that just didn’t sit well with me.”

We’ve previously had a discussion on the Shameless blog that addressed an ad that used a pinup-esque style. That post (as well as the comments) addressed not only the pinup aspect, but also the fact that it was being used for advertising (and advertising razors to shave your legs which reinforces another beauty standard). But what if we removed the advertising and shaving points from the debate? What if we were just talking about the pinup?

What do you think? Can pinups be feminist?

If not, why? And what would it take to make them feminist (if that’s possible)?

If pinups can be feminist, then what defines a feminist pinup?

Tags: body politics, sexuality

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